MERIDEN — A plan to open a medical marijuana manufacturing operation on South Broad Street is being welcomed by several local officials and city residents.
Central Connecticut Health Ventures told city officials late last week that it plans to apply for a license later this week that could lead to the opening of a manufacturing facility. Among those who met with the group was Economic Development Director Juliet Burdelski who said there are some incentives to having the business open in the city.
“Obviously this is new so there are a lot of unknowns, but on the surface the proposal could have a lot of economic development benefits,” Burdelski said. “They are looking at the creation of 40 to 60 new jobs, entry level to highly skilled, management positions. There is also a required investment into the local community and they’d be refilling manufacturing space.”
State legislation passed in May authorizes between three and 10 marijuana producers. Early indications suggest closer to three applications will be approved. Applications are due by Friday and David Smith, a Wallingford businessman who heads the new company, confirmed it will submit an application. Smith declined further comment this week until the application is submitted Friday afternoon. The group also includes Jerry Farrell Jr., the former commissioner of the Department of Consumer Protection, a local lawyer and former Wallingford town councilor.
Central Connecticut Health Ventures has proposed using 50,000 square feet of space at 500 S. Broad St. and possibly increasing that amount up to 300,000 square feet. The building, which once housed offices and a production facility for the International Silver Co., has a total of 430,000 square feet. According to property listings, more than 208,000 square feet of manufacturing space is vacant in the building. Master’s Manna, a faith-based non-profit in Wallingford, recently won Zoning Board of Appeals approval to move into 30,000 square-feet of space at the building, but was recently informed it did not have the needed funding to move in, Director Cheryl Trzcinski said. Two other companies occupy small office spaces within the building. City Council Majority Leader Brian Daniels said bringing in a manufacturing company with the ability to grow could be a good thing for economic development.
“This has the potential to bring a lot of Meriden residents back to work,” Daniels said, noting there would be a requirement that 65 percent of the workers be from Meriden. “The use of empty space is another benefit. And the manufacturing equipment coming in is another benefit for Meriden.”
Since the law’s passage, some communities have looked to restrict where medical marijuana manufacturing facilities can locate and others have outright denied applications. Daniels said he did not see an issue with 500 S. Broad St. or the use as long as the company meets the city’s regulations.
“Connecticut legislation has made this a legal product so whether it’s oxycodone, Vicodin, aspirin or any other legal medicinal substance, it’s manufacturing,” Daniels said, before speaking about the location. “If that’s the site...certainly there are less concerns and it’s very well situated.”
City Planner Dominick Caruso confirmed on Wednesday that the manufacturing of medical marijuana would be allowed in the city’s M-3 zone, which includes 500 S. Broad St.
Not all officials, however, are welcoming the medical marijuana facility just yet. Councilor Miguel Castro said he is not necessarily opposed to the facility and admits he needs to do more research, but he does have concerns.
“It will add taxes to our bottom line and fill space that needs to be filled,” Castro said. “But this could cause harm and put a dent into our image and heritage...I’m not sure that this is part of our economic development blueprint.”
Burdelski admitted there are questions still with the legalization still being new.
“On the downside, there are questions about safety and the handling of the facility and how this will all be enforced by the state,” she said.
Burdeslki added that Farrell’s presence gives her an added boost of confidence in the operation. Also involved is Colorado-based River Rock, which is nationally known for its medical marijuana manufacturing.
Council Majority Leader Dan Brunet said he was aware of many of the safeguards put in place by the Department of Consumer Protection and legislators.
“Certainly we’d have to look closely at the components of this specific project and how it’s operated,” Brunet said. “As a concept, I’m not opposed to any type of economic development...In general, I don’t have an issue with the topic matter.”
Record-Journal readers weighed in on Facebook, with most saying they would be open to the new business.
Walter Gawel, who lives on South Broad Terrace and has property abutting 500 S. Broad St., said he had not heard about the possibility when contacted by a reporter, Wednesday. Gawel had spoken with concern about Master’s Manna moving into the development at a recent ZBA meeting and said he hoped some type of manufacturing could still find a spot in the building.
“This proves Meriden can definitely still can get industry,” he said.
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